Past Lives

Karen Rose

Darkness encompassed the trees like a thick blanket. The moon's light did little. She powered herself forward, following only the wind. Behind her, the angry yells and cries of a vicious crowd was a continuos roar in the night's silent sleep. She did not know what she was running from, or why. Only that she could not stop. She had to keep going. She had to…

"Excuse me…Miss McDonald?" She jumped, realizing that that was her. Looking around, she felt confused, disoriented somehow. All she remembered was running…

"Miss McDonald?"

"Sorry," she stammered. Then, regaining a confident posture, she replied, "I'm sorry." The woman, she now recalled as Mrs. O'Brien, gave her a questioning look then returned to the paint samples.

"So, Miss McDonald, you would like the Nightshade for your bathroom, the Deep Scarlet for your front room…"

For the rest of the afternoon she made the effort to concentrate on everything Mrs. O'Brien was saying to her. But yet her mind continued to return to the image of running, of the tall forest trees, rich with vegetation, of the moon, of how it gave out so little light. Wait a minute, was the moon red?

"Miss McDonald!"

Later, after profuse apologizing to Mrs. O'Brien, she stood in her kitchen (soon to be Emerald Green) and paused for a moment, soap suds on her rubber hands. Images and questions were running through her head. A red moon. Why was the moon red? No, it wasn't red it was...it was...it was Deep Scarlet. A sky the color of the blackest black. No, it wasn't black it was... it was Nightshade. Tall trees as high as the tallest buildings and as green as...

Her head began to ring with...No, wait a minute, it was the telephone.

"Hello?"

"Hey Kez. It's Ross. Where are you?"

"Well considering I just answered the phone. I'd say home would be a safe bet. Why?…Oh no! I'm supposed to be…I'm sorry. I'm on my way."

An icy cold wind blew her hair before her eyes. Shaking it away, she shivered. Even dressed in her jeans and a polo neck jumper, she froze. She quickened her pace to a jog. There was a drop of rain, "Oh no."

She was now running down the street. No, it was a forest trail. No, there was no trail. The Nightshade sky cast an evil darkness before her and she tripped. Her pale blue petticoat now had yet another tear along the front. Pain echoed in her side, but she picked herself up and ran on.

Why? Why had she to do this? The chant of "Heretic" met her ears. Fear rose in her heart and a tear rolled down her cheek. And another, and another, until there was a cascade of water before her eyes. And still she ran on.

"Kez!…Kessandra!"

She paused, breathless. The shouting had come from behind her, so she turned, a trail of clouds following her. On turning she saw Ross, peering out of his window.

"Last time I checked, you were on your way to my house. Well I live here. Remember? Come in, you're getting soaked."

Drying her hair with the towel Ross had given her, she contemplated these visions (if that's what they were). Why? Why did she have to do this?

She put the towel down and entered the warm living room. Ross, Marie, Kevin and Rachel were sitting , scattered around the room.

"Well look who's here!" Rachel said with a twinkle in her eye, "Hi Kez."

"Glad you could join us," Marie added with the same playful lilt to her Irish voice. She was inevitably followed by Kevin, tactless and not funny (as ever), "Hi Kessandra, you look a little wet."

"You're a great man for the obvious, Kev."

As she walked past him her eyes stared, fixated, looking at his Emerald Green jumper and she tripped and fell to her knees. The tears continued to flow down her cheeks. The crowd was closing on her. It seemed hopeless. He had asked for her help and for thy love she had given. No black magic, no evil spirits come to reign terror, no satanic worship.

"Heretic come forth!" The voice tore at her heart.

"Ross," she whispered and closed her eyes, "My love."

"Cailagh Mary McDonald, Heretic and child of Satan I charge thee. Prepare to repent thy sins." How she wanted to rise, to call out to her love, "I am no heretic. I am Cailagh, thy love. I killed him not, I tried to help. I tried…"

Laughter filled the room like a burst dam. Marie stood up, one hand clasped to her chest, the other outstretched in a classic Shakespearean pose. And in an over the top (very bad ) English accent, "I am Cailagh, thy love…To be on not to be, that is the question, whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or to…" She stopped, unable to continue and choking on her laughter (and unable to recall the long forgotten quotation!)

"You OK, Kez?" Ross asked, a concerned look on his face. He was the only one of her friends not laughing. She rose, embarrassed.

"Kez?"

"I'm fine, Ross. I've just been a little off color, lately," she crossed the room and sat beside him.

"He looks like Cailagh's Ross," she thought, suddenly looking at her best friend in a different light.

"Kessandra, cooey!"

"What?" She replied, startled, looking at Kevin.

"I said," Rachel interrupted Kevin's teasing, "How does it feel to be living in a little English country town instead of a Glasgow flat? I'll bet it's a change."

"It's a lot quieter, that's for sure. There's less traffic, less houses, less people…"

"I guess it's helped already knowing us before the move."

"Yep. I'd be lost without you lot."

"Aw, shucks," Kevin replied, "I didn't know you felt that way, Kessy baby." A sideways glance from Rachel removed his grin quickly.

"Well we're glad you're here," Marie said seriously.

"Yeah," said Rachel still giving Kevin evil eyes.

"Yeah," Ross added quietly, slower and more serious than the others, "We're glad you're here."

Later, as she was preparing to leave, she returned the half-empty bottle of wine to the drink cabinet. As she was turning to return to the living room, something out side caught her eye. She walked to the window and stopped. She stood, paralyzed with fear. Staring back at her was a large forest, tall with Emerald green trees, shaded by a Nightshade sky.

"Ross!" she called.

"Heretic!" a voice replied. Suddenly, she was surrounded by people. Her friends, her family, Ross. A claustrophobic ring of faces each bearing its own evil expression and stony stare. And Ross, walking towards her, his expression the most evil, his stare the most stony, or so it felt. Her heart broke.

A rope thrust high in the air…

The woods stared back at her through the window…

…the noose before her face, just the right size…

…the moon began to darken, casting a Deep Scarlet reflection on the window glass…

…Ross placed the noose around her neck, the crowd, shouting at her, wielding weapons…

…she saw the tears in her reflection, set against the picture of the woods, she closed her eyes…

…from the darkness of closed eyes she saw a lone tear fall down the angry face of her beloved. She saw as he raised his right arm. She saw, as he dropped it. He closed his eyes and whispered, "May God forgive me and may He have mercy on thy soul, my love."

She began to choke

"Kez!" Ross pounded on her back. Her breathing settled and Ross wiped away her tears.

"Kez, what's up with you? I'm worried, you're scaring me."

"I'm fine."

"I don't believe you."

She looked out the window at the woods.

"Kessandra what's wrong?"

"What are those woods called?" Ross followed her gaze.

"I'm not sure. I don't think anyone really is, but all the locals, we all call them the Witches Woods." She stepped back, still looking at the woods.

"I'm not a witch!" she cried and ran to the back door and out of the house.

"Kez, come back!" Ross was chasing her, she knew. And she knew the others would follow.

A Nightshade sky encompassed the Emerald Green trees like a thick blanket. The moon's Deep Scarlet light did little. She powered herself forward, following only the wind. Behind her, the cries and yells of voices was a continuos roar in the night's silent sleep. She didn't know what she was running from, or why. Only that she couldn't stop. She had to keep going. She had to…

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